Now if you are an experienced trekker, than I will not tell you anything new here. But if you are a little bit like me - inexperienced and completely unprepared - some of these items will be lifesavers. Just as they were for me.
Most people visiting Ladakh fly into Leh, before embarking on all different treks in the area. Leh is situated at a serious altitude: 3500 meters. Almost everyone who flies in suffers from the altitude.
Headaches, vomiting, shortness of breath - in varying degrees.
Before going on any trek which involves altitudes above 4000 meters, take at least 3 acclimatising days. Better even is to carefully listen to your body and not leave Leh until you are fully acclimitized.
Leh is a great place to buy the trekking gear that you didn’t bring with you. You can find cheap down jackets, trekking shoes, pants, gloves, hats, sandals, camping gas and so on. If you buy trekking shoes in Leh, be prepared to pay little, but take several tubes of superglue with you, as your boots will most likely not last more than a week through rough terrain without needing their first superglue fix.
You’ll be glad you brought earplugs as early as your arrival in Leh. The cute, fuzzy street dogs that are peacefully sleeping everywhere during the day turn into vicious packs at night and their barking goes on and on and on and on. And on.
Your earplugs will make sure you have a good nights rest in Leh before even embarking on a Himalayan adventure.
For me buying vaseline came too late - after 7 days of trekking. Which meant that my lips were completely destroyed and looked like I picked up some scary disease somewhere. Seeing people’s eyes move down to your lips and frown in disgust- trust me, it’s no good for your self confidence.
The altitude, sun and wind are intense, so it’s key to keep on protecting your lips with a good amount of vaseline. At. All. Times.
3. Water bottle
I’ve seen several people trekking with a plastic water bottle that they’d refill for days on end during the trek. Trust me, it will be a pain in the bum and you are much better of with buying a thermos flask in Leh for only 900 rupees. High in the mountains you can fill it with hot milk tea in the morning, and you will enjoy a nice and warm drink on all your rests throughout the day.
4. Rain jacket / Poncho
My little travel poncho saved my life on the trek more than once. It kept me and my bag dry while waiting hours in the pouring rain for pack horses that didn’t show up, and was a great piece of plastic when I needed a front door on my tent. The weather in the mountains is notorious for changing rapidly from sunshine to pouring rain or horizontal hail so some rain protection is essential.
5. Wading sandals
I bought some super ugly wading sandals at the last, last minute before leaving Leh for the trek.
What a pair of lifesavers!
Without them, the many river crossings would have been a very painful bare-footed event. They are not cheap (although I probably got ripped off) in Leh - around 1500 rupees. Worth every rupee - buy them!
6. Fresh tea leaves
Now this might sound as a very strange trekking essential - but you will be glad that you brought some. I bought 6 packages of 100 grams of tea leaves (three different flavours) in Leh and took them with me.
They are great gifts to hand to nomads that you might meet on the way. Or other people that help you along the way for that matter and who you want to give something in return for their help. Alternatively, sugar or roasted barley flour are also goods that are used and appreciated a lot by the people of these mountains.
As long as you go trekking with a (proper) agency, they will bring oxygen cylinders along with them on the track. I’ve experienced first hand what happens when the agency fails to do so and people are in need of oxygen because of the altitude.
It is truly a matter of life and death and every year tourists die because of the lack of oxygen. Therefore I would recommend to bring a simple oxygen can with you on the trek - whether you go by yourself or with an agency. You never know.
8. Cookies / chocolates
Stock up on the cheap packages of cookies and chocolates in Leh. During the trek you will mostly eat dhal, rice and chapatis and snacking on some crunchy cookies during short rests or on top of high passes is the best!
As said before, if you buy (cheap) trekking boots in Leh, they will start falling apart before the end of your trek. Some tubes of superglue will do the trick though - they saved my shoes on two critical occasions. Just be careful with the glue they sell in India, it’s so strong that if you spill it on your hands you run the risk to seriously glue your hands together.. It will hurt.
10. Positive spirit
Okay, this sounds too cheesy perhaps, but just be prepared for some rough conditions. If it rains, you sleeping bag will most likely get wet, as will all your stuff, tent and clothes - it will all be damp and smell terribly.
The pack horses that you paid for might not show up on day one. Your travel agent might not bring oxygen for you. Your feet will hurt. The altitude will take your breath. The trail is rough and rocky. You yourself will smell like donkey (if you don’t have a sleeping mat like me).
But your positive spirit will look through all these things and just see the most stunning scenery you can imagine - enjoy trekking in Ladakh!